• The reduction of people on site will not impact production, general manager external affairs Simon Wall says.
• It targets to produce between 64,000–70,000 tonnes of rutile, 315,000–350,000 tonnes of ilmenite and 25,000 –28,00 tonnes of zircon in the financial year 2020.
Mining of titanium ores will not be affected despite a cut on personnel at the Kwale site, Base Titanium has said, maintaining its 2020 production target.
The Australian mining company has reduced the number of personnel at the mine site by 40 per cent, introducing a “stay at home” and “work from home” policy for non-operational employees.
This is to help mitigate the spread of the Coronavirus.
“The reduction of people on site will not impact production,” Simon Wall, Base's general manager external affairs told the Star on phone.
According to management, operations continue to be maintained, balancing the considerations of employee and community health, operational safety, community benefits, government policy and regulation, customer demand and financial prudence.
It targets to produce between 64,000–70,000 tonnes of rutile, 315,000–350,000 tonnes of ilmenite and between 25,000 and 28,000 tonnes of zircon in the financial year 2020.
“The FY20 production guidance remains unchanged. However, due to the inherent uncertainties associated with the COVID- 19 pandemic, a halt to, or curtailment of, operations at some point in the future is possible,” it notes in its 2020 quarter one update.
The miner has increased the number of buses transporting employees to and from the mine site to allow for appropriate physical distancing.
It has also introduced health screening and associated protocols for all personnel prior to travelling to or entering the site.
There is also regular fumigation of common work areas including ablutions, crib rooms, buses and heavy mobile equipment.
For export of minerals, Base continues to move consignment from the Kwale site to its Likoni storage and ship-loading facility, as it falls under the cargo category which is allowed to move despite a lock-down of the Mombasa, Kwale and Likoni counties.
“We have continued to operate uninterrupted with additional health and safety measures implemented to minimise Covid-19 risks to employees and surrounding communities,” Wall said.
Last week, the firm reported a 20 per cent jump in minerals output for the first quarter of 2020, where it produced a total of 137,881 tonnes of the three key minerals mined at Kwale—ilmenite, rutile and zircon.
The volumes are high compared to 114,293 tonnes mined during a similar period last year.
During the period (January-March), ilmenite produced totalled 105,035 tonnes, rutile 23,683 tonnes and zircon was 9,163 tonnes.
Last year's production, similar period, was 87,179 tonnes (ilmenite),20,171 tonnes (rutile) and 6,943 tonnes (zircon).
Minerals sold during the quarter went up 16.7 per cent as the company secured market for a total of 120,476 tonnes, compared to 103,192 tonnes the same period last year.
The sale comprises 87,819 tonnes (ilmenite), 25,280 tonnes (rutile) and 7,377 tonnes (zircon).
According to parent company Base Resources which operates the 100 per cent owned Kwale Operation, there was sound demand from customers, with ilmenite and rutile prices continuing to strengthen in the quarter while zircon prices reduced slightly.
Its exports have remained steady even as China, its key export market, remains among the most affected in the global trading patterns over Covid-19.
“At this point, the market is holding up and orders for Base's products continue to be made as planned. We are obviously watching demand closely as the economic impacts of Covid-19 filter through the global economy,” Wall said.
The firm commenced production in late 2013.
Since the first export in February 2014, it has remained a key exporter accounting for 65 per cent of Kenya’s minerals output.
The three minerals-Ilmenite, Rutile and Zircon remain key exports having generated Sh15.4 billion in 2018, the Economic Survey 2019 shows.